Why Do People Hate on the San Antonio Spurs?

A Sports Scribe, Basketball — By on May 10, 2012 at 5:00 am


The San Antonio Spurs. They are the team some of you forgot to hate.

And if the rest of you had your way, they wouldn’t be here, with a rested team after sweeping Utah to reach the Western Conference Semifinals.

For years, the basketball media elite have begged of you to respect the team in south central Texas, because it has managed to shine above larger market teams with shrewd management (R.C. Buford), outstanding coaching (Gregg Popovich), great players (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker & Manu Ginobili), and a wholly committed owner (Peter Holt).

They’ve been the most successful post-Jordan Part II franchise in the NBA and one of the most in all of sports. Fifteen consecutive playoff appearances, 21 postseasons in 22 years, thirteen consecutive 50+ win seasons, nine division crowns, four conference titles, and, most importantly, four NBA championships.

Yet, for becoming the model franchise in basketball, and arguably all of professional sports, the lack of respect for the Spurs tends to get more attention than the actual on-court performance. In fact, in a sporting public that values high-octane offense significantly more than balance or strong defense – until someone needs to make a stop – most completely ignore the fact that these ‘boring’ Spurs had the league’s second-best offense at 103.7 points per game.

Having shifted from a defensively stout group in the earlier part of this dynasty to one of the few balanced teams in the game has done little to change the at-large opinion of the Spurs.

A majority, if not all of this perception, is based on where they play. It’s a bit strange to say that when San Antonio is actually the seventh-largest city in the United States, and the 36th largest television market in the country (out of 210). And while the Spurs built this dynasty in the Association’s fourth-smallest television market – ahead of Oklahoma City, Memphis and New Orleans; cities with relocated franchises – they’ve done so without the high-wattage superstar or an incessant controversy that would attract more outsiders.

When the Spurs made the NBA Finals four times between 1999 and 2007, media members, including those who worked within partner television networks, believed the team was the reason that the championship series experienced all-time viewership lows. However, as pointed out extensively by Paulsen at Sports Media Watch, the ratings performance of each series had deeper context than “they’re so boring!” As he summarized recently, Paulsen said “part of the problem is their opponents also play a fairly non-telegenic style of basketball (’99 New York Knicks, ’03 New Jersey Nets, ’05 Detroit Pistons, ’07 Cleveland Cavaliers).”

Five years after their last title, the perception remains. The Spurs don’t get a lot of national TV appearances, and rarely do you see any of their players lavished with endorsement offers or even league promotions. You’d think that now that the team plays a more up-tempo style of basketball that, naturally, they would have greater exposure befitting of what a mediocre team like Golden State or, an arguably less appealing team, like Orlando has received.

To that point, some recent tweets from @NickFlynt, contributor to ClipperBlog.com (part of ESPN’s TrueHoop Network), wondered if there’s something lacking from the Association itself:

“Maybe the reason the Spurs don’t get good ratings is because the league hasn’t paid money to call attention to how good they’ve been, unlike with LeBron and other stars. No one is trying to hype Tony Parker or Ginobili. I think it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy situation. Which, honestly, it doesn’t seem to be about what kind of basketball a team plays. It’s just about a big market. That’s why the ’99 Finals had a similar rating to Lakers-Nets (higher, actually) and other Finals series. Big markets get ratings, because more people care.”

So, let TSFJ pose a question to you, the reader. Is the supposed dislike of the San Antonio Spurs a result of their style of play, their lack of superstars or their market?

J. Clinkscales

Jason is the co-host of The Exchange on BlogTalkRadio with Sumit Dasgupta (@skd_thExchange) and spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Also a vastly undersized PF.

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    13 Comments

  • JAG says:

    Agreed

    Another factor is that the Spurs won their first two titles as a result of popular dynasties coming to an end. They won in ’99 after the Bulls were broken up and they won in ’03 when the Shaq-Kobe three peat crashed. Also, like you stated, they never got to knock off a highly regarded team in the Final. They never won back to back titles either. Casual fans get to know you when you defend your championship.

    In some ways, they’re regarded as a filler. Not good enough to beat the great teams, but in years when there’s not a dominant team, they’ll grab that trophy.

    • Axemansa says:

      What a non educated response. Fill a void. Use facts and compare stats. These Spurs teams rank with the best of all time.

  • Joe Simmons says:

    No hate here from me. Love to see a team do it with fundamentals and effort. I’ve been saying Tony Parker deserves to be in the MVP conversation all year. He shouldn’t win it but he should be in the conversation.

  • I think another factor that comes into play is the style over substance culture that we live in these days, which sports are not immune to. The Spurs are by no means a flashy team during this run, but they have as much or more substance than any team in this era in any sport.

    It’s a shame that the majority of people don’t appreciate what Popp, Duncan and their crew have been able to achieve. But I definitely think all the factors you mentioned, along with today’s overall culture, plays a part in the Spurs’ lack of popularity.

  • Dei says:

    I think it’s a combination of all three. I was just having this conversation with my sisters and father yesterday, and one of them argued that the Spurs are boring and nobody wants to see them play in the Finals. I say, they play efficient basketball, they get the job done, and not in a flashy way either. Flashy isn’t the end all be all, especially if you can’t seal the deal! And them not being in a bigger television market hurts them, from an entertainment perspective. Sports, at the end of the day, is ENTERTAINMENT…we want to be entertained. And you don’t watch the Spurs if you want to be entertained. Tony Parker/Tim Duncan are quiet superstars, but stars nonetheless. They don’t have a bunch of drama, they keep a low profile, but can match up with the more exciting players and even outperform them.
    I think that a large contingency of sports fans will never fully appreciate the 2012 NBA Coach of the Year, Poppovich, or how the Spurs play fundamental basketball. Mostly because they’re looking to be entertained. Sad.

    • People genuinely hate the Spurs because they wish their team played like them. Maybe they lack an egomanic for a personality or a city to match it, but outside for folks in southern Texas, there’s no other major draw for the team. Even OKC has three stars with personality, and the state of Oklahoma can draw support (or hate) for a variety of reasons.

      I blame the city more than anything. Not a diss, but if you just plopped this team in Miami or Los Angeles, they’d be beloved.

      -Ed.

      • Sharon says:

        I respectfully disagree, and I use the word “respectfully” for 2 reasons:
        1. Well, it’s often used when someone meets their demise.

        2. I consider myself as a respectful person, likely in part because I am a San Antonian, so it makes sense that the respect that The Spurs seem to effortlessly exude would naturally be contagious to our Spur loving city residents.

        Oh, and to properly address your point, I strongly suggest you visit our lovely Alamo city and during your stay, basketball season or not, you will see for yourself just how much we LOVE OUR SPURS! A nice stroll on the Riverwalk would reveal to you within just mere moments at least half of the local population sporting their favorite Spurs player official NBA jersey!

        Noteworthy to mention here is that we as San Antonio residents, much like our beloved Spurs are like a family, albeit a very large one. As a family or team-like community, (and it’s been my observation) that it’s rare to have a “favorite”. The solution that we have found us to hang proudly in our closets many. That way, we don’t play the favorites game, and we have a fresh clean one to alternate and wear for at least every day of the week.

        And then of course, I would safely bet that the majority of San Antonio’s population has quite the extension to add to the collection, mostly caps and “generic” yet official T-shirts, often with “Go Spurs Go”, some with bling,some old that one cannot part with (like my original 1999 World Champion T which has holes, sure, but I enjoy wonderful memories of that first HUGE win with every wearing of it).

        Can you feel the love yet? As a city, we are largely defined by a solid core of ethics: founded by Travis, Houston, and other heroes who defended the Alamo, and since then the celebration of multiculturalism, and those values are solidified even more by our much loved Spurs team! All the while, no matter the size of a Fiesta crowd or a downtown street party after an NBA World Championship Title win, San Antonians have that “respect” for each other and our city, that it unthinkable to cause a riot, try to roll a car over as have occurred in those cities you mentioned.

        ‘Keeping it classy is what our city does, just like how the Spurs live their lives, and that my friend, is key! They care about what’s good and right, not about fanfare, flashiness, or the like,

        Again, please come visit and see for yourself. :)

  • sanantonio4life says:

    Its because their leading super stars are not black yet tony and manu put up stats just the same

  • Justahater says:

    Floppidy flop flop flopparoux. The spurs are the reason the nba started the anti flop(cheater) fines. Boring turned to awful. Respect the talent, but no way the team.

  • Spurs says:

    Yall correct Substance not flash is what got the spurs this far!!! and If you big city slickers need big mouths and jail birds to make a team, yall can keep them prison birds, Look what happend to LA!!!!

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